Friday, April 29, 2011

Giving Wisely

Instruct those who are rich in this present world … to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NAS)

PovertyAccording to an article written by Ron Sider for Christianity Today, some people toss a little money to street people just to assuage guilty feelings of their affluence. Such guilt is often warranted because many rich Christians spend vast sums on themselves amid the many in desperate poverty. Instead of tossing coins to beggars to soothe their conscience, however, Sider suggests these Christians should resolve to live their lives simply and give to more effective programs that empower poor people and explore honestly poverty's structural causes.

One of the ways to help the poor through effective programs is to know the needs of people around the world. Over the past two years, many natural disasters have left countless people homeless and devastated with seemingly little hope for the future. We know of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 and the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the central area of Chile on February 27, 2010. We also know of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand city of Christchurch on February 22, 2011 and the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan on March 11, 2011. Many living in the aftermath of the earthquakes and tsunami are today still struggling in poverty and in need of our help. As a Christian community, are we lifting our hands to give out financial aid and reaching out to these people in whatever way we can?

Reaching out to the poor in the world through effective programs is helpful, but beyond that, we need also to remember those around us who are in need. The Bible teaches that if there is a needy someone with us or in any of our towns in our land which the LORD our God has placed us, we should not harden our hearts, nor close our hands from such a poor person. Instead, we should freely open our hands to the one in need and generously help to provide for whatever he or she is lacking (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). In today's context, this means besides handing money to someone, we can also offer to buy the person a meal and then sit down and listen to the person’s story. A person in need often appreciates love and care more than financial handout.

When we see someone in need the next time round, let us therefore not be a bystander. Let us instead be stirred within us to go all the way out to give and to bless. Besides our own and the people in our fold, let us also reach out to meet the needs of the poor around the world. Our mission in the Great Commission is not just about proclaiming the word of God and bringing people to the faith. It involves meeting the needs of people too, just as Christ met the physical needs of the multitude and brought the reality of the kingdom of God to them (Matthew 14:19-21).

If we are rich or have plenty, let us give generously and share willingly (1 Timothy 6:17-18), not out of guilt because we spend vast sums on ourselves, but out of love and charity. Let us not give out of compulsion, but give from hearts of compassion—for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). Rather than toss a few coins to beggars and give handouts which may end up in supporting irresponsible behavior, let us give wisely to those who are in real needs and live our lives in simplicity.

Touch our hearts Lord that we may grow in compassion for the needy and the desperate. Stir within us that we may give wisely and generously to meet the needs of people in poverty, not just financially but also in kind. Help us live our lives simply Lord, that we may not spend vast sums on ourselves. Remind us constantly Lord the needs of others, especially the destitute and the people struggling to live their lives in the aftermath of natural disasters.

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